The president of Zambia joins Facebook amid claims of social media being a danger to the moral fabric of our society. In the past few weeks, we have seen headlines in our newspapers such as, “Social Media poses several challenges, dangers,” “Zambia needs stricter laws on social networking sites,” “Use of social media needs temperance,” and “Blocking social networks temporarily not bad idea”. Therefore, it was a bit astounding for me to receive an invitation from one of my friends to Like His Excellency Michael Chilufya Sata‘s Facebook page on Friday. As though to dispel any doubts of a fake account, on Saturday, three of the major Zambian newspapers all had screaming front page headlines about how our senior citizen president has officially joined Facebook. Tact or strategy? You be the judge. All we can say is that it will be nice to have our Zambian celebrities verify their accounts with Faecbook so that we can easily discover their genuineness, it really wouldn’t hurt.
The fifth Republican president is the first among his counterparts to truly have an online presence with his new Facebook page and a very active Facebook State House Press Office – Zambia page. In fact, State House Press Office – Zambia on Saturday boasted that President Sata made “over 9,500 friends in 6 hours after a surprise entry into social media.” At the moment, the Page stands at 23, 719 Likes just 4 days after inception out of Zambia’s approximately over 14 million population. The numbers keep rising by the minute and we are forced to admit that the rate of Likes is increasing like wild fire. On the other hand, the about page does not contain any website information or links to State House or any other government department for that matter. Does this mean the online presence is concentrated around social media alone? What is the motive for this social interaction? Are we to expect a Twitter account to follow shortly?
The site statistics seem to be performing quite well for a new page. The levels of interaction are however questionable. There is an overwhelming response to the Posts but a lack of reciprocation. For instance, many people are using the page to make appeals ranging from re-instating fired nurses to fixing rural roads. Although it seems that the replies are generated based on the number of repetitive queries the following day. Therefore, there is no particular structure to the kind of content on the page. There is a lack of embedded media like videos, photos, infographics, designed posters, or a glimpse into the president’s day in office or his life, in comparison to another political figure’s page like Barack Obama’s. We also have to ask, what’s with the name? Yes some of you may say we are in Zambia and we do things differently, but c’mon that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have high standards!
According to Times of Zambia, the step taken by the Head of State is in tandem with the determined strides Government is making to promote the usage of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) right from the formative stages of childhood to every sphere of human activity in the country. Apparently, it is expected that this Facebook page will relieve the bureaucracy which usually impedes communication. The hope is that more people in Zambia can afford phones with internet connectivity so that they could be able to participate in these new developments. Did I hear someone say mobile revolution? We hope this also closes the door on social media censorship discussions in the future.